Manchester City won the FA Cup battle with Premier League title rivals Arsenal as Nathan Ake’s goal gave them a narrow fourth-round victory at Etihad Stadium.
The Gunners have established an impressive lead in the league but it was City who shaded a tight contest thanks to Ake’s precise 64th-minute finish after good work from Jack Grealish.
Arsenal had chances of their own, especially in the first half when City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, deputising for Ederson, saved well from Takehiro Tomiyasu and new signing Leandro Trossard.
There was little to choose between the sides and their Premier League battle will come into focus once more when they meet at Emirates Stadium on 15 February.
City will view this as a psychological blow aimed in the direction of Arsenal, who manager Pep Guardiola has publicly recognised as the biggest threat to their hopes of retaining their title.
City were again short of their fluid best but have a squad so rich in quality and versatility that there is invariably a match-winning moment, on this occasion provided by Grealish’s weaving run into the area and a clever finish from Ake.
Erling Haaland was quiet but the fact that City got over the line against opponents who have become so formidable, and who have lost only one league game this season, will delight Guardiola.
It was victory that came at a cost, however, with defender John Stones – so outstanding for his club this season and for England at the World Cup – forced off on the stroke of half-time after pulling up clutching his hamstring.
Stones has been an influential presence for City and Guardiola will hope the medical bulletin does not present a long-term problem.
Arsenal may have suffered a rare taste of defeat but there was enough for manager Mikel Arteta to be encouraged by as they turn attentions back to the league.
The Gunners put the shackles on goal machine Haaland, and in the first half – with recent £21m arrival Trossard prominent – they were a real threat going forward, with Ortega the busier goalkeeper.
It was all achieved with key men Martin Odegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko, William Saliba, Gabriel Martinelli and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale held back from the starting line-up.
Arsenal pushed to the end and it required real bravery from Ortega to keep them at bay in tight goalmouth situations.
Arteta will be hurt by the defeat but there was plenty in Arsenal’s performance to not regard this as too much of a setback.
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